THE ROVING EYE: US wants SWIFT war on Iran

What was the parade of European poodles thinking – that Tehran would just roll over and absorb the European Union’s oil embargo, scheduled to start on July 1? 

No wonder Brussels was caught as a Gucci deer in the headlights when the news started to flow that Tehran would pre-empt the move and immediately slap its own embargo of crude oil exports to six European Union countries – deeply in crisis Club Med members Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain plus recession-hit France and the Netherlands. 

It took virtually no time for Iran’s Oil Ministry and then the Foreign Ministry to deny it; such a decision, technically, would have to be officially announced by the Supreme National Security Council, which also deals with the nuclear negotiations. 

But only the deaf, dumb and blind wouldn’t understand the message; blowback for the ridiculously counter-productive European sanctions/oil embargo package will only plunge vast swathes of Europe further into deep economic pain. 

Iran supplies 500,000 barrels of oil a day to the EU. The mere threat of an Iranian embargo has already provoked an oil price spike. 

Assuming Club Med countries would be able to get oil from other sources – and that’s not a given; Saudi Arabia wants high oil prices with a vengeance – they would have to reconfigure their refineries to process it. Inevitably there would be shortages of gasoline; the average Italian, for instance, is already furious with the skyrocketing price of gas at the pump. 

Perhaps those tens of thousands of useless Brussels bureaucrats carrying their multicolored files up and down should do something meaningful and send a letter to Washington officially congratulating the Americans for further impoverishing tens of millions of EU citizens. 

When in doubt, slap more sanctions

Yet the vultures, jackals and hyenas of regime change/war can never be appeased in their sanction lust. The US is now forcing the EU to cut off Iran from Brussels-based SWIFT – the independent telecom mechanism/clearinghouse used by every bank in the world to exchange financial data (its official name is Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications). Iran’s Central Bank itself may become a victim. 

In a nutshell, SWIFT is the wheel that moves global financial transactions and trade. So if this is not an extended, remixed declaration of hardcore economic war against one country – nothing else is. 

Will it work? Hardly. It will certainly represent more devastation unleashed over “the Iranian people” – the vague entity of choice against which the US has “no quarrel”. More than 40 Iranian banks use SWIFT to process financial transactions, and Iranians use it like everybody else in a globalized economy. 

It will drag SWIFT’s carefully maintained reputation for trust and neutrality through the mud; imagine other member countries’ reaction to the fact they can also be totally marginalized according to the US’s whims. 

Not to mention that Washington cannot tell SWIFT what to do; thus it is not so subtly applying “pressure”, Mafia-style, on the Europeans. The “message” was delivered in person by David Cohen, the US Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. 

And all this for what? According to the relentless, suffocating barrage of spin in Western corporate media, to “perhaps” buy some time so the Obama administration can “persuade” the warmongering, nuclear-armed Likud government in Israel not to attack Iran this coming spring.

 Watch that American camel

Meanwhile, according to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, the country has developed fourth-generation centrifuges made of carbon fiber that are “speedier, produce less waste and occupy less space” as they spin at supersonic speeds to purify uranium. 

And the first made-in-Iran 20% enriched fuel rods have been installed at the Tehran Research Reactor – not a bomb factory but a civilian plant designed to produce medical isotopes for cancer treatment; this should allow the Research Reactor to operate independently of any foreign interference. 

To top it off, Tehran sent a letter to the EU “welcoming” the P5+1 – the UN Security Council veto members plus Germany – if they seriously want to go back to the table for meaningful negotiations about the Iranian nuclear dossier. 

Let’s see what this means. 

It’s a very sophisticated Persian miniature – to be decoded by the Europeans who bother. Tehran is saying; we sincerely want to talk to you; but we won’t give up on our civilian nuclear program; and if you keep treating us like dogs, with these sanctions, embargo and now the SWIFT move, we can apply a lot of pressure on your already stricken economies. 

Anyone betting on clueless European politicians and their sherpas understanding this is hardly guaranteed to hit a jackpot. 

Then there’s the stupid argument that the recent bombings and failed bombings in Delhi, Georgia and Bangkok represent Tehran’s retaliation for the murder of five civilian nuclear scientists in Iran – conducted by the Iranian terrorist group MeK under the orders of the Israeli Mossad. 

If and when Tehran decides to target Israeli interests, it may be able to do it closer to home, and it has the competent operatives to do it without a trace. The notion that Tehran would send Iranian agents to friendly Asian countries such as India and Thailand – and in the case of the Three Stooges in Bangkok openly displaying their passports and even rials – is ludicrous beyond belief. These are patsies; the question is to find out who’s manipulating them. 

If the Washington/Tel Aviv-promoted hysteria is already at fever pitch, wait for March 20, when the Iranian oil bourse will start trading oil in other currencies apart from the US dollar, heralding the arrival of a new oil marker to be denominated in euro, yen, yuan, rupee or a basket of currencies. 

That would suit Asian clients – from BRICS members India and China to US allies Japan and South Korea, not to mention NATO member Turkey. But that would also suit European clients, to pay for oil in their own currency. Tehran – as well as many key players in the developing world – does want to sink the petrodollar. That may be the straw to break the American camel’s back.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

 Asia Times,

He may be reached at


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